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Lump in Your Throat? You Could Have Acid Reflux

By July 21, 2008 Throat

If you feel a lump in your throat and you’re not crying, you may be like Cleburne resident Jan Swanson. She had the annoying feeling of having a lump in her throat for months before she sought help.

“I kept thinking this will go away,” Swanson said. “But it never did. It wasn’t horrible, but it was always there.”

Swanson went to her primary care physician, then to Dr. Ted Benke, an ear, nose and throat physician, also called an otolaryngologist, who performed a flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy, where a flexible tube called an endoscope, which has a light and miniature camera, is passed into the voice box and throat.

The results indicated inflammation suspicious for acid reflux – related laryngitis/pharyngitis.

“There are 2 types of acid reflux – reflux esophagitis and reflux pharyngitis,” Benke said. “Many people think of acid reflux as simply heartburn—that burning pain in the lower part of the abdomen behind the breastbone. But, in Jan’s case, she never even had heartburn.”

Benke said acid reflux can cause many other symptoms, including hoarseness, trouble swallowing, recurrent sore throat, chronic cough, frequent need to clear your throat, feeling like you’re choking, and the sensation of having a lump in the throat.

Benke said Swanson’s acid reflux was called LPR or laryngopharyngeal reflux, a condition that occurs when there’s a backflow of stomach contents into the throat. He said that because the stomach produces a variety of different chemicals, including acid and enzymes, they can be harmful when they enter the throat.

“Many patients, just like Jan, have a weak lower esophageal sphincter, which allows stomach acid to move up into the esophagus, which may cause the upper esophageal sphincter to constrict, and that—can cause the feeling of a lump in your throat,” Benke said.

“That was the case with me,” Swanson said. “I had this constant urge to cough up a fur ball.”

Still, Benke acknowledges the symptoms can be scary for people.

“I have patients who come in and say, ‘Oh, I know I have cancer,’ but in many cases, it turns out to be LPR.”

And fortunately, Benke said, there’s medication for it.

“I feel great,” Swanson said. “Once Dr. Benke prescribed medication for me, I started feeling that lump go down within a week.”

And, Swanson says she still feels great after a year and a half.

Benke says in addition to the medication, he also encourages patients with LPR to change their diet.

“People should avoid fatty foods and spicy foods,” he said. “They should also eat fewer acidic foods, like citrus and tomato-based foods, because they can increase symptoms. Alcohol, caffeine and fizzy beverages can also increase acid reflux and chocolate can worsen it in some people.”

In addition to avoiding certain foods, Benke said, people with LPR may want to consider not snacking before going to bed, not lying down for 3 hours after eating and when sleeping, raising your head and upper body by 4-6 inches.

“Other things a person suffering with LPR can do are maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, and limit aspirin and ibuprofen,” Benke said.

If you are think you may have acid reflux because you are experiencing symptoms like these, call Dr. Benke Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic at 817-641-3750.